Wednesday, January 7, 2009

For love of the arts

Having spent much of my childhood taking dancing, acting, and music classes, I can appreciate the arts. That being said, I don't feel so bad for all the struggling museums and dance companies right now. I subscribe to a lot of nonprofit and fundraising newsletters - it's my job after all - and right now there's a lot of doomsday talk from the cultural sector of the nonprofit world. It's not like we will lose culture if a few of these have to shut their doors due to the recession. You can still enjoy great symphonies and compositions - albeit in a digital recording instead of live. Museums will sell their collections to other museums or to private collectors. It may be unfortunate that the public loses access to some of these things during the recession, but let's face it there's less demand!
Given the new distribution of wealth, arguably we need more culture for lower-income people and less culture for the rich. I don't think the old distribution of wealth is coming back anytime soon.
Technology has also made culture more accessible (and virtually free) than ever before so more people have access. Culture will not die. Basically, we need wealthy people to spend their money on more productive things and given their shrinking portfolios, it will probably happen. I take comfort in the fact that the less efficiently run theatres, museums, etc. will probably close first.

This is kind of a funny thing for me to point out because I'm a fundraiser and because I give to the arts (granted a tiny pittance). I should be more sympathetic except I know that most museum/symphony fundraisers actually make about 20% more than elsewhere in the nonprofit world. Whether this is because they have to be able to afford to hobnob with the wealthy or because their job is actually harder is beyond me, but I think it's just the market at work. It's time for the arts to prove their market value and it's in their long-term best interest to figure this out anyways.

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